Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 10/14/14
The Pirates finished an incredible first half of the season with yet another incredible game on Sunday, as the bullpen’s heroic effort and two clutch hits delivered a 14-inning win over the Brewers. The Pirates have now won nine in a row. They swept the Brewers. They extended their lead in the NL Central to two games. They are still the best team in baseball. They have 51 wins at the end of June. And at the end of the first half of the season, they are on pace for 102 victories. Three incredible months. We marvel at what the Bucs have done after each win, but when you sit back and look at it as a whole, it’s even more impressive. One of the biggest reasons for the Bucs’ success this year, of course, is the bullpen. The Shark Tank was certainly the story Sunday, since a huge rain storm hit PNC Park in the bottom of the second inning and delayed the game for over two hours. That meant Charlie Morton‘s afternoon was over – he had pitched two quick innings and allowed an unearned run (thanks to a Clint Barmes error). Vin Mazzaro came on after the delay and pitched FIVE perfect innings in relief. That’s just sensational – probably the best outing of his career. Justin Wilson added another zero to the board in the top of the eight. Problem was, the Bucs were still down 1-0. The offense was stalling and the worn out Brewers bullpen was doing an equally stellar job. Gaby Sanchez nearly tied it with a homer, but he was robbed by LF Logan Schaefer’s great catch at the wall. The Pirates finally got the big hit they needed in the eighth, when Andrew McCutchen came through with a two-out line drive single to score Starling Marte. With the game now tied, the bullpen didn’t miss a beat. Bryan Morris, Jason Grilli, and Mark Melancon all tossed quick scoreless innings to give the Pirates three walk off opportunities. The offense couldn’t get it done, though (Brandon Inge whiffed with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, and they went 1-2-3 for the next few innings). Tony Watson took over from there and did a masterful job – he was the second MVP of the game behind Mazzaro. Tony was the last guy available in the pen (Ryan Reid was out after going three innings Friday) and stretched out to go three innings – all of them excellent. The Pirates squandered another walk off chance in the 13th when Pedro Alvarez (who had an awful game and finally had his hit streak snapped) hit into a based loaded double play after the Brewers brought CF Carlos Gomez into the infield. But finally, in the 14th, over six and a half hours after the game began, Gaby Sanchez’s legs (of all things) won it for the Bucs. He singled, stole second (his first steal of the year – Gaby is slow but took advantage of K-Rod’s big windup), and chugged home on fumes when pinch hitter Russell Martin delivered a walk off single up the middle.  When you win nine games in a row, crazy things like this happen. The Pirates just found a way to win. It wasn’t the greatest display of offense (neither was Saturday night’s performance), but that’s a lot easier to swallow when they get the win anyway. But of course, the bullpen’s performance was truly brilliant. This is the second time this season the ‘pen has covered more than a full regulation game’s worth of shutout ball. This time it was TWELVE shutout innings, and thank goodness they were rewarded with a victory. I’m honestly speechless at this point. There is no way you can reasonably expect things to get any better than this – and yet it keeps on happening. Now it’s time to carry that on in to the second half – but what a first half it was. Pirates 2, Brewers 1 / Box / 2013 Record: 51-30 / Next: Tuesday, vs. Phillies, 7:05 Source: FanGraphs
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